Inventor: John Napier Natural
John Napier was born in
Merchiston Tower, Edinburgh, Scotland in the year 1550. He was born
into a well to do and influential family, being the son of Sir Archibald
Napier, the 7th Laird of Merchistoun and Janet Bothwell
Napier, whose father was a member of the Estates of Parliament. He was
also the nephew of the esteemed clergyman Adam Bothwell who some years
after John Napier’s birth became the Bishop of Orkney
It is interesting to note that John
Napier’s parents were only in their mid teens when he was born and so
one might say they grew up with him.
Being a member of the nobility, John Napier
was not sent to school until he reached the age of thirteen, being
rather taught at home. He started school but dropped out almost
immediately. The reasons for this may not have been bad however since
it is thought that he did so in order to travel to a place where he
could receive a better education.
John Napier’s uncle, Rev. Adam Bothwell,
wrote the following in a letter to John Napier’s father: “I pray you,
sir, to send John to the schools either to France or Flanders, for he
can learn no good at home.” Most historical researchers believe that
this advice was acted upon.
As he grew, John Napier showed a remarkable
ability to excel in the studies of mathematics, physics, astronomy and
John Napier returned to Scotland at the age
of 21 and one year later he married Elizabeth Stirling, whose father,
James Stirling was the 4th Laird of Keir and of Cadder,
thereby uniting their two very prestigious families.
Quite wealthy in his own right, Napier
purchased a castle in Gartness and he and Elizabeth settled down to
raise a family. They had two children and shortly after the birth of
the second one Elizabeth passed away. Napier later married Agnes
Chisholm and they had ten children.
Napier’s father died in 1608 and Napier
moved his family to Merchiston Castle where he assumed his duties as the
8th Laird of Merchiston.
Napier’s interest and publications
concerning logarithms led to his being declared the discoverer of
logarithms. In truth the actual founder was Michael Stifel, who
invented an early form of logarithm tables many years earlier, but it
was Napier who improved and expanded on these tables.
John Napier died April 4, 1617. His death
was said to be caused by the gout.